The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus
"And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.' Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus" (Acts 9:17-19).

Ananias obeyed God and great things resulted! After locating Saul, Ananias' first task was to restore his sight. Based on our prior studies regarding the ability to perform miracles, it is reasonable to conclude that Ananias, at one point in the past, had been given such power through the laying on of the apostles' hands. After Saul's sight was restored, he immediately got up and was baptized. Certainly there is more to the dialogue than what is recorded here. When we compare the parallel accounts in Acts 22 & 26, some other details are revealed. We know that Ananias commanded Saul to be baptized (i.e., immersed in water) in order to wash away his sins (cf. 22:16). Recall that Jesus told Saul on the road to Damascus that he would be told what he must do. Baptism is the first thing Saul, as a penitent believer, had to do. It wasn't just a suggestion or a good idea; it was a divine order. It should be observed that it was not until after Saul's baptism (where he was actually forgiven) that he had the peace of mind to be able to eat food (cf. 8:39; 16:34 - joy comes after baptism). In addition to having his sins remitted, Saul would have received the Holy Spirit at his baptism in a non-miraculous way (cf. Acts 2:38; 6:3,4). Afterward, Saul remains with the disciples there for a span of time to learn, grow, and strengthen himself in the faith. As some point Saul would receive miraculous gifts of the Spirit from God, but the timing of such is not revealed in the Scriptures.

Saul's case shows us clearly that conversion is a process. Many affirm that Saul was saved on the road to Damascus. Such is not correct Biblically. It is true that Saul was in the process of being converted on that road, but he certainly was not saved there. For Saul, the process of his conversion to Christ began with certain truths Christians had spoken to him that afflicted his conscience to some degree. He resisted these truths until he spoke with Jesus Christ Himself! At that point, Saul quickly became a penitent believer, but he was not yet justified (cf. Acts 22:16). He was still in his sins even after developing faith, demonstrating repentance, and praying to God (and no one who still has sins to be forgiven is saved). Some teach that a man is justified by faith only the very moment he affirms that Jesus is the Savior, but such is proved false by Saul's own experience! Man is "justified by faith" (Rom. 5:1), but when? Something more than a mental assent to the truth is required, for Saul had faith for three days without being justified ( cf. four related lessons from our archives on 01/24/2006, 01/25/2006, 01/26/2006, and 01/27/2006). Some attempt to resist the reasoning above by suggesting that Saul was a Christian when Ananias arrived at the house because he called Saul his "brother." Answering this objection is a simple task if one realizes that the term can be used to refer to one who is a kinsman according to the flesh (e.g., Acts 3:17; Rom. 9:1-5).

"Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, 'Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?' But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 9:20-22).

As soon as Saul obeyed the gospel, he devoted his energies toward building up that which he had tried to destroy. The dramatic change was, of course, noted by all. Saul grew in the faith and ability to prove that Jesus was the Christ (by bringing together in perfect harmony Old Testament prophecies and historical facts about Jesus). The unbelieving Jews were not able to withstand his words or rationale, and thus Saul quickly became a significant source of agitation. Soon the former persecutor would be a chief target to suffer persecution!